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Missouri House gives initial approval to $46 billion state budget — changes expected from Senate

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives, photographed here in  Jan. 2022, gave first-round approval on Tuesday to their version of the state's upcoming budget after debating it for over seven hours.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives, shown in January, gave first-round approval on Tuesday to their version of the state's upcoming budget after debating it for over seven hours.

Despite having billions in state and federal money to spend, the Missouri House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a budget more conservative than the one Gov. Mike Parson proposed months earlier.

The House budget, around $46.1 billion, is about $1.2 billion less than Parson’s proposal.

The House cut Parson’s plan to raise the minimum wage for Missouri’s teachers, as well as slash most of the $500 million Parson wanted to go immediately into the Missouri State Employee Retirement System.

House Budget Chair Cody Smith said the state would still be spending more money than years prior. Democrats said it’s not enough.

“We've left a lot of money unexpended, and we'll get to that in time, but we do have a lot of money in the bills that we're spending as it is,” Smith said.

The budget includes over $10 billion for the state’s K-12 schools and $3.4 billion to the Department of Transportation — both increases. It also allocates almost $3 billion for Missouri’s Medicaid expansion, which the legislature did not fund last year.

The House also gave preliminary approval to spend around $2 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan money. Some of the projects to use federal COVID-19 dollars include over $100 million for broadband infrastructure development and more than $410 million for water infrastructure grants and lead service line inventories.

Missouri is set to receive around $2.6 billion from the American Rescue Plan, which must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent at the end of 2026.

Changes likely to come from Senate

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, last week called the House’s action on the budget “fairly irresponsible” and said the Senate will write the budget.

“If they're going to give it to us, three weeks later than they were supposed to, and in a year where obviously we've had time crunches for a couple of other things, the Senate usually wins the budget process. I don't have any desire to lose this year,” Rowden said.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said he expects to see a lot of differences between the House budget and the eventual Senate budget.

“We're already behind the eight ball with the timing of it coming over. And I would argue that you're behind the eight ball, and you're going to have a lot of differences that we're going to have to try to make up,” Rizzo said.

The balancing rule

Though Rowden said the Senate will consider the House’s work on the budget, ultimately the Senate will have greater say in some of it, as the House left an estimated $1.8 billion in unallocated general revenue funds on the table, as well as more in federal funding.

This comes after a failed effort to suspend a House rule that requires any proposed new or increased funding in general revenue be accompanied by a cut somewhere else.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, proposed the rule suspension early in Tuesday’s debate over the budget.

“This rule was originally intended as a one-time restriction and an extraordinary circumstance that no longer exists,” Quade said.

House Republicans criticized the motion, including Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, who serves as vice chair on the House Budget Committee.

“We got to think about how to do this responsibly, which is what we will do this year and into next year,” Deaton said.

By not allowing the House to pull general revenue funding beyond what it allocated in its budget, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the House will be at the will of the Senate when it comes to those leftover dollars.

“If we don't put a place for this money to be spent, we will be left with the choice of spending how they said or let it keep burning a hole in our treasury. That is irresponsible,” Meredith said.

Another area of contention on Tuesday concerned an effort by Democrats to remove language in the budget bills that would prohibit public entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 testing at general admission events in order to receive public funding.

Rep. Betsy Fogle, D-Springfield, introduced an amendment removing that wording.

“I have concerns with that language, because I do very much believe that it can cause some practical problems for entities that receive state funding,” Fogle said.

Fogle’s amendment was rejected by the House, though a few Republicans did join Democrats in voting for it.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.